Facebook and Google+, as with most social networks, force users to give up their privacy to get more out of the service, but are there any benefits to this loss of anonymity?
Facebook and Tumblr deal with online privacy very differently. Facebook requires you to use a real name and is designed to connect people. There is no anonymity on Facebook–it even started as a closed network that required a verified .edu email address to become a member. However, Tumblr doesn’t require any personal information, and allows people to anonymously share pictures, ideas, etc.
In an interview with BloggingHeads, Andrew McLaughlin, VP of Tumblr, and Marne Levine, VP for Global Public Policy for Facebook, explained how anonymity and transparency effect Tumblr and Facebook. McLaughlin and Levine provide completely opposing viewpoints on the importance of anonymity. McLaughlin praises the freedom that comes along with anonymity, while Levine criticizes the lack of comfort and lack of security that stem from anonymity. While Facebook is a networking tool used to connect people, Tumblr is creativity tool used to share ideas–anonymity has a different role with each. In Facebook’s case, the lack of anonymity allows users to connect with other users, but since the network has opened up it is nearly impossible to verify identity. In Tumblr’s case, anonymity allows people to share ideas, but this also makes people less accountable for their ideas and opinions.
Anonymity may allow people to express themselves without consequences, but it also creates a false sense of security. Anonymity allows people to express themselves without reproach. Free, anonymous expression makes sense for Tumblr, as it allows users to explore creative interests that they wouldn’t explore without anonymity, but it does not make sense for Facebook, which is meant to be an online extension of real interactions that happen between people.
The real question may be whether this anonymity is truly possible. If you engage in social media, your information is going to be in their database forever. Even if you don’t have an account, however, your information may not be as private as you think–everything that you have ever searched on Google is tracked and saved. If you choose to delete your Google search history, your search history can still internally be used by Google for 18 months. Nothing that you do online is anonymous, the only question is if you know your anonymity is being violated or not. Google has agreed to pay a 22.5 million dollar settlement to the FTC for violating users privacy, without their knowledge.